Act 3 is a turning point in the play for the key characters Abigail and Proctor. The audience has established by the opening of Act 3 that Abby is a very manipulative but this Act reveals her arrogance. She has already established her role within the play as the main accuser and victim of witchcraft as well as being a primary witness to it. Abby has accused Elizabeth Proctor of stabbing her and has endured physical suffering as a needle was found pushed into her stomach.
She also is seen to be believed as she is the primary witness to this and no one else could have seen the witch who attacked Abby: ‘she testify it were your wife’s familiar spirit pushed it in’ (Danforth). Danforth is given no choice but to try Elizabeth for witchcraft. When Abby appears in Act 3 her role has now changed and she is made to defend herself against the accusations being made against her. Mary has made the claims that ‘she never saw familiar spirits’ and that ‘none of you have seen these things either’ (Danforth).
Abby is very clever in the answers she gives: ‘I have naught to change, she lies’. She simply defends herself by denying all charges, she has the confidence to do this which Mary seems to lack. When asked if she will still keep to her claim she is less assured of herself (faintly): ‘Aye, sir. ‘ This gives Abby an immediate lead over Mary in the way she is able to manipulate Danforth around to her way of thinking. Once in control of the situation again she can cement her case by appealing to Danforth’s reason as she has ‘physical proof’: ‘I have been hurt Mr Danforth; I have seen my blood runnin’ out!
By appealing to his better judgement she is in fact making him believe that it is the only logical explanation for these events. She can appeal to him on all levels as she also provides the final proof that is the ‘supernatural proof’ by becoming icy cold: ‘She is cold, Your Honour, touch her! ‘ (Hathorne) He cannot come to any other conclusion to why she ha become so cold as she would surely not be able to fake this but he does not see what the audience has already seen in Abigail.
She is a very emotionally charged girl and from her first appearance in Act 1 we are told she is ‘a strikingly beautiful girl, an orphan, with an endless capacity for dissembling’. Abby challenges Danforth with the same pattern of threats and intimidation that is seen in Act 1 with the girls: ‘Let you beware, Mr Danforth. Think you be so mighty that the power of Hell may not turn your wits? ‘ This type of open threat only weakens Danforth’s own sense of judgement. Abby’s role as the victim is again put under threat when Proctor reveals his accusation of her sexual immorality.
He claims: ‘It is a whore! ‘ which shows how far he has moved from Acts 1 and 2 where he just saw her flirtatious nature is mischievous and exciting. Also, using the term ‘it’ shows he has no longer any warm feelings towards her. Abby again uses the same method of defence by denying all charges and at the same time turning the accusations back around to her advantage: ‘Mr Danforth, he is lying. ‘ She is seen to be indignant: ‘What look do you give me? I’ll not have such looks! ‘ Abby boldly challenges Danforth and he is left unable to speak.
During her defence Abby uses an attack from Mary as a distraction to draw attention away from the charges and to renew her role as a victim: ‘Oh, Mary, this is a black art to change your shape. No, I cannot, I cannot stop my mouth; it’s God’s work I do. ‘ This unprovable supernatural event works in Abigail’s favour as by the end of Act 3 she is back to her earlier role of accuser and manages to successfully accuse Mary who she knows is to weak to equally defend herself. Although Abby is successful in manipulating Danforth in Act 3 she ends by losing the one person she was wishing to gain through this – Proctor.